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Monday, July 28, 2014, 9:09am
This year is shaping up as 49ers RB Frank Gore's biggest battle since he played for the Hurricanes.
He's 31, ancient in running back years, and is surrounded by younger players, including two of the most highly regarded runners in the last two drafts, Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde. Lattimore's challenge of Gore may be delayed. When the 49ers' first practice of training camp began Thursday, he was on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he continues to come back from his 2012 knee injury.
If the 49ers are eying a running-back-by-committee approach this season, they're not letting on.
Gore already lost two of his potential backups, though. Kendall Hunter is done for the year and LaMichael James is going to miss all of the preseason. That leaves Hyde as his main competition at the moment in camp until Lattimore returns, so it looks like Gore could emerge as a guy to again get significant work, perhaps especially early on in the season. Gore's age and previous workload are a little scary and because of that we have him ranked 23rd among our backs with an ADP of the 7th round. He looks to be a good depth option for your team, and if you can land him as an RB3, you should be in pretty good shape with your fantasy backfield.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:57am
Despite the recent loss of Vick Ballard and other questions in the backfield, the Indianapolis Colts announced they waived running back Chris Rainey on Monday. The team gave no reason for cutting the running back, whom coach Chuck Pagano recently raved about at Colts training camp. The coach said he looked like the "old Chris Rainey" from his time in high school and at Florida.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:54am
After the Vikings named Norv Turner their offensive coordinator in January, it quickly became apparent that tight end Kyle Rudolph stood to become one of the biggest beneficiaries of the move. Rudolph had put together a solid start to his career in Minnesota, winning Pro Bowl MVP honors after his second season and catching 30 passes before breaking his foot in the Vikings' eighth game of last year, but Turner's offense stood to take Rudolph to a new level.
The Vikings clearly saw that possibility, too. Think of the five-year contract extension they gave Rudolph on Sunday night, then, as both a good-faith deposit and a mechanism to ensure some cost certainty.
Rudolph is ranked 10th on our TE list with an ADP of the 10th round. There seems to be a lot of potential there for Rudolph this season, who was having a nice year in 2013 before getting hurt. If you don't land one of the top TEs early in your draft, waiting until later in the draft is probably a good strategy and Rudolph could give you some quality starts at the position.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:44am
Since his return to practice back in April, Jeremy Maclin has professed that he is a "stronger" version of his former self. "You can just base it off certain things that you do in the weight room, on the football field," he said. "And also mentally stronger. When I talk about stronger I mean everything that goes into it."In the four mostly healthy seasons that preceded his lost one, Maclin provided the kind of consistency and dependability Kelly has preached since the day he arrived. Maclin also fills nicely some of the leadership void created by Jason Avant's departure, an ideal veteran for rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to model their work ethic around.
Still, it is hard to tell if Maclin is physically stronger than he was before that gruesome injury.
It is also hard to believe that he is mentally stronger. This is a man, after all, who was abandoned by his father at 9 and raised by the little league football coach. This is also a man whose undisclosed illness in 2011 forced him to miss a chunk of training camp and led to wide speculation about cancer and his career ending, a man whose ACL tear last August was the second to that knee in his career and, coming at the onset of his final contract season, led to even more speculation about the end of his career.
Maclin is poised to fill a big role on the field too now that DeSean Jackson is out of the picture. Maclin isn't Jackson in terms of speed, but the Birds feel Maclin will still fill in nicely opposite of Riley Cooper. While QB Nick Foles is one of our top-rated at the position, Eagles WRs are further down our list. Maclin comes in at 36th, but his ADP of the 7th round is considerably lower than those ranked around him, so owners are banking on a productive season.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:27am
Jets receivers coach Sanjay Lal really likes his newest addition, Eric Decker. And for good reason. Decker was the best free agent receiver available this year, and the Jets desperately needed receivers. So they went out and got him, and he instantly became the best player in Lal’s meeting room.
So far, through the first four training camp practices, Decker has performed on the field about as well as the Jets could have hoped. He has yet to drop a pass. Off the field, he has, by all indications, shown diligence in learning the Jets West Coast offense.
The big question with Decker is what can he do without Peyton Manning throwing him the football. Backers of Decker point to the fact he caught 8 TDs in 2011 before Manning joined the Broncos. But now Decker will be facing team's top corners, although he's likely to get more targets. Still, Decker is ranked 31st on our WR list, which makes him a high-end WR3/low-end WR2. He should be a solid mid-round option for your fantasy team.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 8:49pm
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has made it known for some time that he would like to have a big receiver. During a team third-down period, Roethlisberger's wide receivers were Dri Archer (5-foot-8), Antonio Brown (5-10), Lance Moore (5-9) and Markus Wheaton (5-11). So who did Roethlisberger throw the ball to? How about 6-7 tight end Matt Spaeth. Spaeth beat rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier on a third-and-7 out pattern that resulted in a first down.
Falcons WR Julio Jones saw his most extensive practice action since undergoing right foot surgery and looked like the Jones of old after sitting out one day. His explosion was evident with every step, and he blew past Desmond Trufant on a play during one-on-one drills. "He's looking good, man," Trufant said of Jones. "To come back like he did ... he didn't do any of the (organized team activities). He was just doing rehab. He didn't miss a beat. That's exactly what we want to see. And he's going to definitely have a comeback season this year." Jones was spectacular and in sync with Matt Ryan. Despite how he looked Sunday, the Falcons won't change the game plan with Jones just yet. He'll be off again Monday.
Good news for those targeting Jones as a late first round, early second round option. Still, there is reason to be concerned with his foot and staying healthy. If he does play a full season, we think he's a top-five WR.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 8:40pm
When Knowshon Moreno signed with Miami in the offseason, many penciled the former Bronco in as the Dolphins’ starting running back. It was way premature. Instead, Lamar Miller has been clearly ahead of Moreno on the depth chart every step of the way since and might even be pulling away. Moreno hasn’t practiced yet in camp, still healing from arthroscopic knee surgery. Miller, meanwhile, is healthy — and stronger than ever. Miller, who ranked 24th among running backs in yards after contact last year (2.06 per carry), put on between six and eight pounds of muscle this offseason.
Miller looks to be taking advantage of his opportunity to turn into the back many thought he'd be last season. Miller is currently ranked 31st on our RB list, but he could climb if the current trend continues. He's shaping up to be a great value with an ADP of the 8th round.
49ers running back LaMichael James was carted off the field with an apparent left-arm injury early in Sunday's practice. It's believed James got hurt in a pass-blocking drill. Coach Jim Harbaugh hovered over James on the ground before a trainer whisked him off to the locker room. James appeared to be supporting his left wrist with his right hand.
James had just become a top contender for the No. 2 running back role behind Frank Gore Friday, once Kendall Hunter sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament and was lost for the season. Next up on the depth chart are Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore. With Gore getting up in age, the 9ers RB2 can be fantasy worthy.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 7:18pm
The Buffalo Bills can't catch a break at tight end. Already down Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and Chris Gragg (heat-related symptoms), top Bills tight end Scott Chandler left Sunday's practice early with a groin injury. He did not return. There isn't an immediate prognosis on Chandler's injury. He was the team's leading receiver last season, catching 53 passes for 655 yards.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 7:02pm
Colts TE Dwayne Allen is the total package, and observers are about to find out just how OC Pep Hamilton plans to take advantage of that fact. One of the biggest differences you'll notice in the Colts' offense with Allen onboard is the increased use of two-tight end formations. Whereas the Colts used the fullback extensively last season in power-running situations, look for that to be curtailed.
The story calls Allen a matchup nightmare and the team likes the flexibility he brings in two TE sets, both in the running and passing game. We rank him 21st because we think Coby Fleener will take away some of his production, so we think he caps out as a TE2.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 6:53pm
This is a big season for Seahawk WR Jermaine Kearse's future and he seems to understand the possibility. This is the final year of his first contract and Kearse can be a restricted free agent next offseason.
He just saw teammate Doug Baldwin, also undrafted out of college, sign a three-year extension for up to $13 million. Kearse is considered a lock to make the team this year, even though his career numbers aren't impressive. However, he's delivered on some big plays last year. We project Kearse for just 19 catches and he currently isn't getting drafted in 10- and 12-team leagues.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 6:48pm
Giants RB David Wilson fumbled a handoff from QB Eli Manning, one of several sloppy miscues by Giants skill position players.
Not what you want to be reading about Wilson even early on in camp. So far, it's been a struggle for the running game. The story did mention Rashad Jennings showed glimpses of his shifty ability to turn short passes out of the backfield into big gains.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 6:45pm
The aerial attack looked to be in a rhythm for the Giants when QB Eli Manning was out there, hitting on several short passes in the new up-tempo West Coast system offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo brought over from Green Bay, Manning and Victor Cruz connected several times in 11-on-11 drills, including a pretty out pattern in which Cruz laid out with a head-long dive.
If Manning can turn it around, he'd present a great, late-round value. He's ranked outside the top-20 on our QBs list and isn't getting drafted in a lot of 10-team leagues right now.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 6:39pm
Given that running back is a crowded position on the Broncos with plenty of youth -- Ronnie Hillman, entering his third season, is the most experienced of the group -- those looking for a spot may want to take a page from Hillman’s work Sunday. The Broncos didn’t tackle live on special teams, but Hillman returned some kickoffs and showed good burst doing it. And with the kickoff return job wide open, some of the running backs looking for a roster spot may be wise to lobby for their chance to return kicks in the coming weeks.